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UCSD Health Announces First Kidney Transplant Between HIV Patients

Left to Right: Saima Aslam, MBBS, associate professor of medicine and directo...

Credit: UC San Diego

Above: Left to Right: Saima Aslam, MBBS, associate professor of medicine and director of the Solid Organ Transplant Infectious Diseases Service, Jennifer Berumen, MD, transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon and director of Living Donor Kidney Transplant and Kristin Mekeel, MD, chief of transplant surgery, are pictured in this undated image.

UC San Diego Health announced Tuesday that its surgeons completed Southern California's first kidney transplant from a deceased donor with HIV to a recipient infected with the virus.

UCSD is taking part in a national clinical trial of organ transplants for HIV patients. Such transplants were illegal in the U.S. until 2013, when Congress passed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, which allows for the donation of kidneys and livers from one HIV patient to another.

UCSD doctors said they expect the kidney recipient to make a full recovery from the procedure, which was done earlier this month.

Donor organ shortages are constant and affect HIV patients even more acutely due to longer wait times and a higher likelihood of dying before a donated organ is available, according to UCSD. More than 113,000 Americans are currently in need of an organ transplant.

"Patients often wait more than 10 years in California for a deceased donor kidney transplant, and 13 people die nationally each day waiting," said Dr. Kristin Mekeel, UCSD Health's chief of transplant surgery. "By expanding donation to donors with HIV, we can get more patients transplanted — sooner — with healthy, functioning kidneys."

The kidney transplant clinical trial, which began last year and includes Johns Hopkins University and 15 other medical centers around the country, will include more than 300 organ transplants to HIV patients. A second clinical trial for liver transplants to HIV patients launched earlier this year.

Both trials are currently recruiting and accepting potential organ recipients, according to UCSD.

"The overall goals of both trials are to assess the safety of using such organ donations and ultimately increase the number of organ transplants performed in the U.S." said Saima Aslam, an associate professor of medicine at UCSD.

"This trial will also provide a new biorepository of tissue and blood samples to fuel future studies investigating HIV persistence and pathogenesis, and provide an unprecedented opportunity for persons living with HIV to register as organ donors," Aslam said.

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